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Is the UN fit for purpose?

Is the UN fit for purpose?


UN Watch, a Geneva-based NGO which monitors the activities of the United Nations, reported at the end of 2013 what it felt were the ten worst decisions of the UN throughout that year.  All ten are worth a look, but what stands out like a sore thumb is the aggressive promotion of Islamist states (and the resulting sanitisation and legitimisation of sharia), along with the not un-related harassment of Israel.

Of particular interest are the activities of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC).  UN Watch mentions Mr Richard Falk, a UNHRC investigator, who it said had blamed the Boston Marathon bombing on “the American global domination project” and “Tel Aviv”, and was later praised for doing so by council members. 

Also in 2013, the UN’s human rights body elected Mauritania as its vice-president.  In a statement from UN Watch in September, Karoline Ronning stated that “nowhere is slavery so systematically practiced as in Mauritania, a country that is an elected member of this Human Rights Council.”  She added “According to Abidine Merzough, a man born in Mauritania as a slave, and who is now the European coordinator of an anti-slavery NGO, sharia is used to justify this system.”

Other countries elected to the UNHRC in 2013 include China and Russia, but perhaps the most controversial election winner of the year was the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.  It is well known that Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s most oppressive states, particularly for women, and is a nation where apostasy, blasphemy, adultery, and homosexuality all carry the death penalty.  You can read Amnesty International’s most recent report on Saudi Arabia’s human rights record here.

In 1948, the UN’s General Assembly (the main deliberative body of the organisation) adopted the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.  This document was initiated to represent the first global expression of rights to which all human beings are entitled.  Though not enjoying the legal status of a treaty in its own right, the Declaration was partly intended to define the words “fundamental freedoms” and “human rights” in the UN Charter, which was legally binding on all signatories.  Of utmost significance in the UN Declaration was the notion of the universality of human rights – for how else could we recognise and protect our common humanity?

Needless to say, some Islamists took issue with such a notion.  Saudi Arabia refused to ratify the Declaration at the time, claiming that it violated sharia law.  Criticisms continued over subsequent decades and in 1982 (not long after the Islamic Revolution) an Iranian representative  Said Rajaie-Khorassani described the Declaration as "a secular understanding of the Judeo-Christian tradition" which could not be implemented by Muslims without transgressing sharia

A notable criticism of the Declaration from within the West came from Faisal Kutty, who founded the Canadian Muslim Civil Liberties Association in 1994.  Kutty’s remarkable comment got right to the heart of the matter - he said  "A strong argument can be made that the current formulation of international human rights constitutes a cultural structure in which western society finds itself easily at home ... It is important to acknowledge and appreciate that other societies may have equally valid alternative conceptions of human rights." 

Kutty argues, and the UN seems to concur, that societies such as those of Iran or Saudi Arabia, where citizens face execution for pursuing religious or philosophical freedom (apostasy carries the death penalty in both countries), are of equal validity in terms of human rights, as states that guarantee religious freedom for their citizens.     

The problem of course is that the UN has fallen victim to the dangerous and deeply racist ideology of relativism.  Relativism purports that concepts such as rights and freedoms vary in character across societies and cultures.  They do not.  Freedom for example has only one meaning.  How one chooses to utilise freedom can of course differ, but that fact does not change its simple definition.  Freedom refers to the right of a human being to organise their lives as they wish, with limits only to protect others.  It has the same meaning everywhere in the world, and it is desired everywhere in world; freedom is human, it is not cultural.

In depicting freedom as a Western concept, as Islamists demand and the UN appears to sanction, fighters for freedom within Islamic countries are increasingly disempowered.  Islamists routinely accuse human rights campaigners in Islamic states of pushing a Western agenda, and the UN is providing a buttress. 

While relativising universal concepts and aiding the passage of blasphemy laws (proposed by countries that punish it with death), the United Nations is simultaneously engaged in a relentless quest to punish any potential breach of human rights laws by the tiny state of Israel.  The United Nations passed 21 resolutions critical of Israel in 2013, compared to only 4 for the rest of the world combined.

Now, since the start of the recent Middle East conflict, the UN (as well as the Western media) has focussed its criticisms almost exclusively on Israel.  In late July, the UNHRC passed a resolution to set up a new Commission of Inquiry on Israeli “war crimes”.  UN Watch argued that the inquiry “encourages Hamas to continue killing Israelis with deadly rockets and terror tunnels”.  Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, agreed with UN Watch and said that the decision “sends a message to Hamas that the use of human shields is an effective strategy”.

Whether Israel’s response to the rocket attacks of Hamas is proportionate or justified is a matter of opinion.  What is not a matter of opinion however is what Israel is actually facing; religious genocide.  The Jewish state is confronting an enemy that quite openly calls for the death of all Jews.  The UN, and the Western media, do not appear to consider this point relevant, and you certainly won’t hear it referred to on the BBC. 

The Hamas Charter, its founding document, is a festival of Jew-hatred and it is hard not to conclude therefore that Israel is under attack simply because it is a place of safety for Jews – and because Jews top the jihadi hitlist.  Just last month, Hamas confirmed again that their “doctrine in fighting you (Jews) is that we will totally exterminate you” and will “not leave a single one alive”. 

Given its tendency to promote some of the world’s worst human rights abusers, and its relentless pursuit of the only democracy in the Middle East, it is clear to me, as it must be to many, that the UN is not only unfit to uphold global human rights, but instead represents a serious and growing threat to those rights, and their retention.